In 1980 I embarked on my second trip to Southeast Asia while a student. My official title was, “student missionary” but this was a humanitarian mission not a proselytizing one. My job was to hold Survival English and English as a Second Language classes in a refugee camp. I also taught refugees who knew a little English how to pass that knowledge on. I was chosen because I had spent a year between mid 1977 and mid 1978 in Balikpapan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo so I knew a bit about living in this part of Asia.
We were put up in a rundown house with no glass in the windows and only an urn with a ladle to bathe and wash up with. We did have mosquito nets but that is about all that kept the creepy crawlers away. Outside there were two pet primates a macaque monkey and a gibbon (an ape). They could work up quite a noisy cacophony when our yard was visited by Water Buffalo and other animals. I drove to work on a motorcycle. Here I am getting ready to head out:
I jostled past the animals, people and vehicles on the road and arrive at the camp. The camp was divided into individual villages that seemed to be arranged by class. The poor farmers or fishermen had the most rundown part of the camp and escaped businessmen or government officials got the better areas. Each village arranged a classroom for us and we would travel from place to place providing language instruction as nearly all people in the camp would be going on to resettle in an English speaking country. Here I am in action:
Here are some shots that will give you an idea about how the camp was set up and the wonderful people living there:
All in all I had a rewarding time working with such wonderful people. What strikes me most looking back, was how happy everyone seemed to be despite there dire situation. As you can see this was particularly true of the children. I often wonder where they are now. I hope they found a better life and lasting happiness. I hope they were welcomed in the communities where they resettled. If anyone from that camp happens to read this I want to thank them for their hospitality and kindness all those years ago.